Charging stations spring up around the country

While utilities conduct projects to learn more about electric vehicles (EV), businesses are already moving to fill the need for filling stations for cars that run on electricity.

Walgreen’s drugstore chain has submitted plans to the city of Colorado Springs to install four electric vehicle charging stations around the city. The proposed stations are part of the chain’s larger plan to install 800 facilities around the country, giving EV drivers a convenient place to recharge.

The first of the stations became available in December 2011, and the rest of the facilities should be completed early this year. Walgreen’s, which is partnering with charging network developer 350Green, has plans for about 25 such stations across Colorado. The cost of the power at the stations will depend on local electricity rates.

Santa Monica, Calif., is working with EV Connect to create the infrastructure to support EVs and make the city “plug-in friendly.”  EV Connect is installing publicly accessible charging stations at seven sites and numerous residences around the city.  The high-traffic locations chosen for the stations include Santa Monica Place Mall, Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica Civic Center and Santa Monica Airport.

A report from Global Energy Watch anticipates that the market for EV charging stations will grow significantly over the next eight to 10 years as production of the vehicles increases. Governments and military installations are adopting EVs to meet environmental and efficiency mandates, driving the deployment of more charging stations. That, in turn, encourages consumers to buy EVs as they become confident that the infrastructure exists to allow them to charge their cars when- and wherever they need.

While there are still challenges to EV adoption, charging stations clearly represent a potential economic development opportunity for private companies, municipalities and even utilities.

Virginia pilot program offers lower rates for electric vehicle charging

Dominion Virginia Power recently introduced a program that gives electric vehicle owners a rate break if they charge their cars overnight.

The Richmond Electric Vehicle Initiative, as the pilot program is called, offers utility customers two options to charge their vehicles:

  • Under the vehicle-only option, the power company installs a second meter in the customer’s home that measures the energy used only for recharging the vehicle. The cost for the meter is $2.90 a month. An overnight charge, good for about 40 miles, would cost the customer about 54 cents.
  • The whole-house option offers a lower rate for all household electricity use overnight, including recharging vehicles. Dominion Virginia Power will replace the customer’s meter with one that records energy use in 30-minute intervals, allowing the utility to apply pricing rates at specific time periods. This option would charge the vehicle for 51 cents in the summer and 61 cents in the winter under the second.

Using Dominion Virginia Power’s standard residential rate of 11 cents per kWh, the cost of an overnight charge is about $1.10. The special rates will help offset the higher cost of purchasing electric vehicles, which begin at $30,000.

Each rate option is limited to 750 people, and each participant will have to stay enrolled in the program for a minimum of one year. So far, 17 customers have signed up for the program.

The program runs through Nov. 30, 2014. Each year the pilot is in effect, the utility will submit an annual report to the Virginia State Corporation Commission (SCC) that details the number of program participants, an assessment of the feasibility and implications on the public interest of continuing the program, and other relevant information.

The initiative received a $429,051 grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help develop a local network of charging stations for electric vehicles. Partners in the program include the utility, Virginia Clean Cities, the Richmond Regional Planning District Commission and J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College.

The program is designed to test whether the rate structure will motivate people to charge their vehicles during overnight off-peak hours. It could also help balance the growing demands of electric vehicles on the grid, and promote the building of charging stations.  

What is your utility doing to get ready for electric vehicles? Are you ready for the challenges and opportunities the technology presents to power providers? Tell us in the comments section.